The North American Scrabble Players Association (NASPA) looks poised to remove hundreds of tournament-level offensive comments scrabble play. The proposed move is part of an effort by the group to “support Black Lives Matter and bring justice to our world,” as the organization’s CEO, John Chew, put it in a recent newsletter.
Hasbro, who publishes scrabbletold The New York Times that NASPA has “agreed to remove all taint from their glossary for” scrabble tournament game, which is operated solely by NASPA and is available to members only.” The company said it will also update the game rules “to clarify that defamation is not allowed in any form of the game.”
But after weeks of debate, NASPA’s 12-member advisory board has yet to officially vote on the proposal to ban more than 200 abusive comments and tournament variations. That vote is scheduled for later this week.
“I’ve long felt that there are some words in our lexicon that we cling to in the mistaken belief that our spelling with tiles on a board robs them of their power to do damage,” Chew said in a statement. message to NASPA advisory board urges removal.
What is offensive?
The argument about whether “offensive” words have a place in scrabble is not new. In the mid-1990s, Hasbro faced outside pressure when the Anti-Defamation League publicly objected to a number of words deemed offensive in the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (which itself collected words published in other major dictionaries, such as including those deemed offensive in those source texts).
“They are literally playing games with hate by giving legitimacy to such historically hateful and personally hurtful terms in a book that serves as a guide to board games, very often by impressionable young people,” ADL spokeswoman Myrna Shinbaum said at the time.
As a compromise, Hasbro and Merriam-Webster agreed to remove hundreds of offensive words from the game’s official dictionary in 1994. Club and tournament players, meanwhile, would continue to use an extensive glossary that kept all offensive words as valid play (this extremely NSFW list, which is more extensive than the list of insults NASPA is considering, keeps track of all tournament playable words missing from the official list). dictionary).
While the 90s scrabble word deletion encompassed a wide variety of offensive terms, the recent NASPA discussion has focused solely on words “used primarily as defamation…words used to label someone as being of lesser worth than the speaker on the basis of a innate trait such as gender, race, or sexual orientation.” Words that are “used to cause offense on scatological, prurient, profane or other grounds” are not addressed this time. NASPA publishes an obfuscated, anagram list of which offensive words fall into each category.
Is it a blemish or just a “string of letters”?
NASPA members have been discussing the proposed taint removal in a private Facebook group for weeks, with fervent arguments on both sides of the issue. Those who argue in favor of preserving the words in the game generally believe that, in the context of: scrabblethese words are just “strings of letters” that are converted into in-game points, completely separated from any meaning they might have in the real world.
“The spoken word can be offensive,” Connecticut player Benjamin Bloom said in an interview with Slate, but “any array of tiles on a 15-by-15 scrabble management should never offend anyone.”
On the other hand, players argue that it is not a big inconvenience to unlearn a few hundred words – which are generally not very common at high level scrabble play – from a list of over 192,000 acceptable plays. That’s especially true if using those words could offend existing players or dissuade new players from entering the competition scrabble community.
Some also argued that playing offensive words can make tournament players “look like a group of rude bigots” to casual onlookers or passersby who might be looking at the game board. That’s what happened in 2010, when a Cleveland area newspaper had to apologize after using a photo of a local tournament board with a taint. Players in tournaments broadcast on ESPN have also been asked in the past not to use offensive words.
“When we take out a slur, we declare that our desire to score points in a play on words is of more value to us than the broader function of the slur as a way of oppressing a group of people,” Chen wrote in his letter. to NASPA members. † “I don’t think this is the time to divide the world’s problems.”
The scrabble controversy follows last month’s decision by Hasbro subsidiary Wizards of the Coast at seven Magic: the meeting cards with racist imagery or tournament-level play connotations.
If NASPA votes to remove defamation from the glossary later this week, the decision will take effect in tournaments beginning September 1.